A group of lawyers, under the aegis of House of Justice, have written to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho, seeking protection for female lawyers appearing before judges of the court.
In their letter dated September 21, 2020, the groups said they were not comfortable with the usual practice of Federal High Court judges demanding the marital status of female lawyers appearing before them.
The letter, titled, ‘Re: Guaranteeing the Dignity of Female Counsel Appearing before the Federal High Court,’ was signed by Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, Gloria Ballason and Abiodun Baiyewu.
The letter reads partly, “It has come to our attention and we have independently verified that several honourable judges of the Federal High Court in different places insist on asking female counsel appearing before them to indicate whether they are married or single, by requiring them to make a mandatory choice between the honorific titles ‘Mrs’ or ‘Miss,’ when they announce themselves in court.
“In some cases, female advocates who balk at being treated this way run into trouble with conducting their cases, suffer unacceptable bullying from the court or jeering and sniggering from the bar and the court gallery and generally get subjected to indignities entirely unrelated to their abilities or the merits of their advocacy or their cases.
“We note that men who appear in court are not at risk of suffering a similar faith.”
The group contended that the practice of asking female lawyers their marital status had no basis in the rules of the court, and amounted to a violation of their constitutional right to dignity.
They added, “Sadly, the treatment of female counsel by these honourable judges of the Federal High Court violates high constitutional principles, in addition to basic courtesies.”